These current economic times have everyone on edge. A house for sale can sit for months in this tough real estate market, but one bright spot enlisting interest is real estate video.
As the real estate market continues it's unpredictable swing nationwide, more and more savvy real estate agents are realizing that it now takes creative marketing in order to sell homes in this slower market.
Back in the good old days, all you needed to do was hammer a sign in the front lawn and you had 5 offers. Today, it takes a great deal of business savvy and marketing ingenuity to sell a home. According to a National Association of REALTORS survey, 90% of homebuyers begin their searches online, it only makes sense that the internet is in integral part of the home buying and selling process.
In those good old days, "curb appeal" meant everything. Today, it's "web appeal". Whether real estate agents like it or not, prospective home buyers are sitting at home at 1:00 am in their bunny slippers shopping for homes on a 15" laptop computer. The quality of that web presentation determines whether someone picks up the phone to schedule an appointment... or hits the "next" button. It's as simple as that. Being able to "virtually" walk through a home via the internet is a godsend to people searching for housing - especially if they're from out of town.
Real estate video works on several levels. For buyers, it helps them visualize the layout of the home, as a good video tour will allow you to virtually walk through the entire house. Oftentimes, it's helpful to include neighborhood shots, driving through the neighborhood, and nearby amenities of the community. Buyers don't want to waste their time - there are a record number of properties on the market, and video helps them narrow their choices.
For sellers, it helps qualify serious buyers. Video is a very transparent way of viewing a home - the entire home - not just the choice still shots that are often depicted on the MLS (Multiple Listing Service) shown in still photos. Video reduces the number of showings, but increases the quality of those showings. With homes staying on the market for weeks, months or even years, having to clean up, get rid of pets, kids, toys, etc. for each and every showing is a chore, to say the least.
Video does help sell homes. For the real estate agent, it's the best listing tool out there today. Agents will get almost every listing they're up for if they present their video tours properly on a listing appointment. It's also an incredible branding tool. It helps set an agent apart from their competitors. I recently created a killer iPad presentation for my clients to show off how they market homes with video on a listing appointment. It's very compelling!
Enter the 21st Century
They just got rid of their IBM Selectric typewriters and index cards - The real estate industry is not known for it's technological expertise. Many agents are older and somewhat resistant to change and technology. They do what always worked in the past for them. Many would happily return to the days of the big, fat MLS books if they only could.
90% of real estate clients are online, yet according to the National Association of Realtors, only 6 out of 10 real estate agents have their own website. That says a lot! Buyers understand the value of real estate video. Sellers understand the value of real estate video. The one group that generally does not is your potential client: The real estate agent. Only a small percentage, maybe only 5% of real estate agents understand the value of doing real estate video.
The real nut to crack is how do you market to a group where 95% of your potential customers aren't interested? - This is the most difficult road to success in real estate video. Based on phone calls and emails I receive weekly from videographers around the world, it's an industry issue - not a local or national issue. From South Africa to New Zealand to Iowa, the number one frustration among real estate videographers is "How do I get business?"
Price and Presentation
It's not about gear, it's not about technique. It's about price. Period. I'll get right to the point. You will not be paid what you think you're worth in the real estate market. So, get over it. Real estate agents will not pay $500, $600, $700 or more for a real estate video. I don't care what the property costs, they will not pay it. I've had agents whine about spending $400 on a $10M property.
This business is all about price. If you want this to be a business instead of a hobby, you need to understand that first and foremost. Do your homework in your market area and determine the sweet spot for what real estate agents will pay for a service such as this.
Don't try and compete on price with 360-degree spin tours or zooming slideshow programs. This is a completely different product, and you can't compare them. Savvy agents will see the difference and then understand the value and price differential. And there are rules and legalities agents have to follow when advertising - more on that in a moment.
Determine your pricing model that you feel will work, then develop a product that can fit into that price structure. I cut corners and I make no apologies for that. I have a very specific "product" I sell. You can see thousands of my videos all over the internet, and they all look the same. Google Earth satellite views, drive through the neighborhood, exterior shots, and a walk through of the home in a logical order. My workflow is quick and easy because my product is the same every single time. I do not allow any client edits (unless I personally make an error, then I will correct it). It is what it is. In certain communities where I do a lot of regular business, I oftentimes will create a 30-45 second add on piece showing the town, amenities, beaches, downtown, etc. Other than that, I do very little in the way of customization to keep my workflow to a minimum.
If you make your product fit your pricing, you can succeed. If you charge what you think you're worth, you'll fail! REALTORS don't care about your equipment, your Emmy Awards or your experience. If you like to make "art", the next big blockbuster movie, if you like to haul around a bunch of "toys" (cranes, sliders, dollys, etc.) you're in the wrong business. REALTORS care about getting a good product at a price that they can afford.
Turnaround is key. Agents will call you at a moment's notice, and generally expect a finished product within 24-48 hours. If you're not willing or able to adhere to that type of environment, this is definitely not the business for you. There's very little wiggle room in this business. Once a listing agreement is signed, an agent has generally 48 hours to get it online - or risk a large fine. I promise still photos at the end of the day - video the next day. And I deliver every time.
Know your Client's Business
You must understand the real estate business. Most agents will take whatever free marketing they receive from their broker, and will spend little to none of their own money in marketing their listings. Agents who understand business, who understand that "you have to spend money to make money", and those who understand the value of creating their own brand, will be on board with video in a heartbeat. These are the true business people in the real estate industry, and these are the people who have the greatest potential to be your clients using real estate video.
Educate yourself on the rules - Every local multiple listing service (MLS) has certain rules and regulations in regards to tours and they're all different! Many allow no agent branding, broker branding or contact information. "For Sale" signs are not allowed. Some systems allow street addresses, others do not. The rules change periodically, and most agents don't have the slightest idea what the rules are, so it's in your best interest to contact your local MLS and ask them yourself. Agents are fined for infractions - sometimes heavily.
I generate two videos for each client. One is unbranded and MLS compliant, the second is branded with the agent's contact information at the end. I upload the branded video to about a dozen video sites, and the unbranded version only goes on the MLS.
Workflow is Key
To keep the price down to reasonable levels, I have to cut corners as I cannot spend 6 hours working on a video. I offer a standardized product. Thousands of my videos are online and they all follow exactly the same formula, as will all others. Your listing will look exactly the same, except a different house. What you see is what you get!
There are no re-edits. If I make an error, I obviously will correct it. If the agent makes an error, there is a $100 charge to re-edit the video. I do no custom work, as that takes extra time. I use a tripod and steadicam - no additional equipment, which gets me in and out of the house in 30 minutes or less (more if I'm taking stills). Since I use a Canon 5D Mark II DSLR for my video and stills, that cuts down the time as well since I use the same camera for both. It also speeds transfer of the video from the camera , since it only needs to be transferred off the CompactFlash card onto my desktop.
Editing is pretty straightforward and quick as it is filmed in a logical order, so I usually spend about 30-60 minutes editing a 5-minute video, plus writing and recording a script for the voiceovers for those who purchase that option. I encode in H.264 format and usually process them (2 versions of each video) overnight using Sorenson Squeeze.
During the busy season (February - May), I have done up to 7 shoots a day, but average about 3-5, which is obviously a more comfortable pace!
I Don't Market to REALTORS
I market myself - through the internet, my website, and I participate regularly in online real estate forums and networks (such as ActiveRain.com, RealTown.com, Trulia Voices, WellcomeMat.com, etc.) and rely heavily on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook. I upload my videos to at least 12 video sites. The more my product is out there online, the more likely my 5% of REALTORS will see it, "get it" and call me!
How to Find Clients
My recommendation if you're just getting started, is to find a business savvy, high producing agent that primarily works in a middle to high end market / farm area. Offer to do several video tours free. Let him get his feet wet. Let him see and hear the positive reactions from buyers as well as sellers. More importantly, it also lets his chief competitors in the marketplace know how this agent is now marketing his listings. REALTORS are some of the most competitive people in business. Your phone will start to ring! Of course, make it easy - put your website and phone number at the end of your video tour.
Your primary clients will be real estate agents, however increasingly, sellers are taking matters into their own hands, purchasing the video and giving it to their agent to market their home.
Real Estate Video can be a lucrative, full-time business - If you understand these few principals, you will find that shooting real estate video can be very steady work that pays extremely well. I work virtually every single day doing real estate video and have been having a terrific recession. Learn to price your product correctly, formulate a good workflow and learn how to market yourself - and you'll find you have more business than you can handle!
Find out more about Fred Light's Real estate video business.
Watch an interview with Fred Light on how he makes his videos.
Fred Light is a 30-year real estate marketing veteran and owner of Nashua Video Tours, a real estate video company on the East Coast.